I worked Staff Duty yesterday and last night, which means I was awake for about 29 hours. Got home, ate breakfast got two hours of sleep, now up and wanting to run my mouth about things. Like more PT stuff. Thinking about the best exercises. Of course I must define “best”. Actually, the easy definition would be whatever one you enjoy doing, whatever gets you moving. The benefits of exercise are myriad, and people are best served by ignoring the minutiae and getting to the guts of it: Life is Movement.
I try to consider my mistakes. What has worked, what hasn’t. I consider my own biases about things and the desire to have a “system” that’s perfect. In some ways, espousing one system begins to stink of cultism. Crossfitters come to mind. In other words, I try to do what works and throw the rest out. If I talk of the benefits of a training or diet regime, it’s likely that later on I’ll see some problems and have to make adjustments. This isn’t flip-flopping–it’s learning. In everything, I hope I’m intellectually honest.
But of course there is the Bang For The Buck Factor. For a minimalist like myself, we want results without the flash. I like Old School training. Few of us need Olympic coaching to get tremendous results, and the results that an Olympic coach would give us would make us too specialized and possibly add to our stress levels. Also, to me, exercise is Zen. As I’ve written before, movement and the rush it gives me, my measured performances, are reminders that effort matters. Will matters–in everything. I won’t give any cliche’ lines here.
Here’s a list and some explanations as to the best training movements. Remember, that what’s best for me, may not be for you. For instance, we must train around injuries and physical deficiencies. Deep knee bends can have a tremendous benefit, but for me they inevitably lead to knee pain. I slap myself because I always think I can get past it and just do the knee bends because my knees aren’t hurting. Then they start hurting. I’m a dumbass sometimes. Train smart. For me, kettlebell or dumbell snatches, hill sprints or skipping rope are better than knee bends and have similar training effects.
Best Upperbody excercise: Pullups. Grab a bar, rafter or tree limb, it doesn’t matter. Works the grip, lats, biceps, mid back and gives functional strength. Pulling power is far more important than pushing in grappling and anyone in elite military or police units will need to pull himself over obstacles.
Best shoulder exercise: Handstand pushups against a wall. You may have to work up to them by doing Hindu pushups, but the handstand pushups builds balance and strengthens your core. More effective than the military press because studies show moving your body through space builds more strength than moving an outside object through space. You can increase the difficulty by leaning to one side. They can be done virtually anywhere and without equipment.
Best piece of equipment: The kettlebell: Portable and versatile, the kettlebell offers catch-all fitness: Strength, muscular endurance, cardio benefits, awesome grip strength–unmatched lower back work. Train with a kettlebell and watch your athleticism explode. Take it anywhere–unlike the leg press machine or squat rack at your gym.
Best leg exercise: The one-legged squat: If you’re new to the one-legged squat or “pistol”, don’t expect to be able to do it without quite a bit of practice. Start off by grabbing the doorknob on an open door, and assisting yourself while squatting. Balance, power, endurance and you can do it with our without weights. Surprisingly, works the calves, abs and hamstrings, too. When you can do 25 bodyweight pistols per leg, you’ve joined the ranks of the elite–do 50 and you’re an immortal.
Best ab exercise: The ab-wheel rollout: Start from your knees with this old school training implement. You can buy them for 10 bucks at Wal Mart and you’ll get far more benefit than from any $1000 nautilus ab-cruncher. Don’t expect it to be easy. Work up to being able to extend from your feet–and brag about it, because not many people can do it. For real men only–Metrosexuals should stick to crunches.
Best Cardio: Fartlek runs: I like to run a couple miles than add intervals at the end where I pick up the pace at my own leisure. Or I’ll sprint between the last few phone polls before the end of my run. Intervals increase speed, endurance and bestow multiple health benefits.
Best Exercise in the Known Universe: Deadlift: Sumo, Romanian, standard, however you cut it, no lift grants more athletic benefits than the deadlift, and there is no athlete that should not do it once in a while. Works the neglected posterior chain, builds grip strength, bone density, and makes you an all around bad-ass. The only draw-back is that it requires a lot of iron and there’s the chance of injury if done incorrectly.